Clothing and textile waste is increasingly becoming a problem. From 2000 to 2014, clothing production worldwide doubled. Fast fashion brands like H&M now put out 12 to 16 collections each year and Zara 24 a year. People are buying more clothes and keeping them for half as long. The average Canadian now buys 72 textile items a year.
More than 85 percent of all excess clothing and textiles in Canada ends up in landfills. In North America alone, over 10 million tonnes of clothing reaches landfills each year. The fashion industry has a lot of work to do to become sustainable. However, there are plenty of small things we can do as individuals to help reduce this waste.
Avoid buying too many clothes to begin with. Consider buying items that are timeless, that you’ll want to wear for many years to come, and that will accommodate weight fluctuations. Be wary of trendy clothes that can quickly fall out of style. Look for high quality, durable, items from brands like Canadian companies Free Label, Lezé the Label and Novel Supply Co. These are some examples of what is considered “slow fashion”. Reducing your clothing purchases can allow you to make more deliberate purchases. Look for brands that use sustainable fabrics and have ethical business practices, such as providing fair wages and working conditions for garment workers. You can use the website/app good on you to search for sustainable and ethical brands.
Buying used clothing saves resources, as no new clothes are produced. We’re very lucky to have a robust used clothing and thrift store industry. It's a great option for finding used clothes.
However, this industry may not be for everyone. A common critique is that the plus sized community has a lot of difficulty finding used clothes that fit them, which can make sustainable shopping frustrating.
If thrift stores aren't accessible to you, there are also online options. Online used clothing sales have become quite popular. Here are some examples:
There are also local vintage and used clothing sellers on Instagram all over the province and country. For these online options, search for sellers close to you to reduce the distance the clothes would need to travel to reach you.
Mend / Repair
Even good quality items can wear out, tear or stain. Try mending them, or take them to a tailor. Check our database under the REPAIR button for tailors in your community. For stained clothing, you can try dyeing it to hide the stain, preferably with natural dyes!
You can give away wearable clothing to friends and family or donate them to a thrift shop. Be careful not to rely too heavily on thrift stores. We shouldn’t use donation as an excuse to overconsume. Instead, we can give another life to clothes that no longer fit, feel comfortable or don't get worn anymore.
Feel free to share your personal experiences and tips with getting the most from your clothes.
Sustainable Fashion resources:
If the language around sustainable fashion is confusing I recommend reading this article by Aja Barber, a writer, stylist and consultant who focuses on the many intersections of sustainability and fashion.
As for sustainable fabrics, here are a couple articles to read on fabrics you might come across while on your search for sustainable and ethical clothes:
What are the Most Sustainable Fabrics
30 Sustainable Fabrics for the Most Eco Friendly Fashion